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“A Deeply Unhealthy Support For Barbarism”: Donald Trump Sees A Problem Only Torture Can Solve

The latest reports out of Turkey point to an increasing death toll following the terrorist attack at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport, with 41 deaths and more than 230 injuries. U.S. officials, of course, have condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.

In our presidential election, however, Donald Trump wasn’t satisfied with a condemnation.

The presumptive Republican nominee appears to have resisted the urge to say, “Called it!” which tends to be his go-to reaction in response to most major events. Trump did, however, manage to respond to events in Turkey in a deeply unsettling way.

Donald Trump on Tuesday prescribed fighting “fire with fire” when it comes to battling terrorism, seemingly making the case for using similarly brutal tactics as terror groups like ISIS have in the past.

The GOP’s presumptive nominee has been outspoken on enhanced interrogation, telling Tuesday’s enthusiastic crowd once again that he doesn’t think waterboarding is “tough enough” and that it’s “peanuts” compared to what terrorists have done in the past.

Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. “We have laws; they don’t have laws,” the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, “Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better.”

From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. “You have to fight fire with fire,” he declared. “We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”

Trump added, “Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they’re eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don’t do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we’re weak, we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire.”

In a CNN interview, Trump went on to say he intends to “change our law on, you know, the waterboarding thing” in order to “be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis.”

Or put another way, the Republican presidential hopeful evidently sees value in the United States becoming more like our enemies. Donald J. Trump genuinely seems to believe torture, chest-thumping rhetoric, and posturing are the foundations of an effective national security policy.

Anything else might look “weak.”

Here’s the part of this that Trump struggles to understand: crises are leadership tests. When the pressure’s on, would-be presidents have an opportunity to demonstrate what kind of leadership they can and would provide if elected.

In this case, Trump sees an ISIS attack on a NATO ally and his first instinct is to effectively say, “This looks like a problem torture can solve.”

Postscript: In case anyone’s forgotten, when the Senate Intelligence Committee examined the Bush/Cheney administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” senators found torture was ineffective, illegal, brutal, and “provided extensive inaccurate information.” Trump, in other words, has no idea what he’s talking about.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, National Security, Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unholy Trinity For Discrimination”: Far-Right Justices Warn Of ‘An Ominous Sign’

The state of Washington has a law that requires pharmacies to dispense medications, even if individual pharmacists have religious objections. One family-owned pharmacy challenged the law in court, saying it shouldn’t be required to sell emergency contraception, which the pharmacy’s owners consider immoral.

An appeals court sided with the state, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the justices announced they would not hear the case, which has the effect of leaving the lower court’s ruling intact.

And while that would ordinarily be the end of the dispute, yesterday offered a bit of a twist. The Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear the appeal out of Washington, but at the same time, Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas released an angry rebuttal, saying they not only wanted to hear this case, they also consider the majority’s disinterest in the matter to be “an ominous sign.”

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon highlighted yesterday’s “unusual” statement.

“This case is an ominous sign,” Alito wrote in an unusual, 15-page response to the court refusing to hear Stormans v. Wiesman…. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead,” Alito continued, sounding a lot like a man who foresees a bleak future for his side, “those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

No, actually, they almost certainly don’t.

As is always the case, especially in Supreme Court disputes, the details matter. In Washington, state law still allows individual pharmacists to raise religious objections to helping a customer, so long as some other employee can step in and provide the prescribed medication. The plaintiffs in Stormans v. Wiesman, however, wanted to go much further – refusing to stock Plan B altogether, regardless of public needs.

The state’s policy is based on the entirely reasonable idea that consumers should have access to medications that are safe and legal, and pharmacies shouldn’t have the authority to simply turn people away. The far-right trio on the high court obviously disagree, and Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explained the broader implications of their dissent.

…Alito, Thomas, and Roberts seem to believe that, under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, states are proscribed from requiring for-profit religious businesses to treat all customers equally. If this unholy trinity ever managed to rewrite the First Amendment this way, they could effectively bar states from protecting women, gays, and other minorities from religious-based discrimination. […]

Neither [Alito], Roberts, nor Thomas thinks refusal of service is a big deal when patients can hop back in their cars (presuming they have them) and drive to the nearest pharmacy that will deign to provide them with the proper medication. (Live in rural Washington? Hope you can find another pharmacy before the Plan B window closes!)

This cavalier dismissal of women’s interest in nondiscrimination flies in the face of precedent. The court used to say that when a religious accommodation burdens other people’s rights, the accommodation itself violates the separation of church and state. Now Alito wants to push that rule through the looking glass, arguing that there’s a possibility states must give religious employers the right to burden others – a burden that will fall disproportionately on women and gays.

Keep in mind, if four justices agree to hear a case, the Supreme Court takes the case. Were it not for Antonin Scalia’s passing, it’s very likely Stormans v. Wiesman would be on its way towards oral arguments.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Liberty, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Streets Cannot Be A Home”: A Problem That Money Can Go A Long Way Toward Fixing And That Money Must Be Found

The homeless can be scary people. They may block sidewalks, curse passers-by and aggressively demand money. Or they can be just sad.

Growing homeless encampments are stressing cities across the country. Honolulu and Sarasota responded with stiff laws taking “vagrants” off the streets and out of public parks. South Carolina’s capital, Columbia, decided to give the homeless three choices. They can go to a shelter, get arrested or leave town.

Several approaches to dealing with this tough population are being tried. The wisest combine humane treatment with respect for the public’s right to use public space without having to step around bodies.

Some “advocates” oppose forcing the homeless off the streets. They accuse the new laws of “criminalizing homelessness” and trying to “hide poverty.”

What the advocates are doing, though, is turning the homeless into spectacle. Many are mentally ill, are addicted or have criminal records. They are not street theater.

One can’t ignore the reality that rising costs in hot housing markets have priced many locals out of their rentals. But as suggested above, the inability to find other accommodations is usually part of a larger constellation of personal problems.

Enlightened advocates applaud removing the homeless from the streets as a means of directing them to the services they need. Governments have an obligation to support such services.

An example. While recently waiting in a line at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, I was hit by a harsh smell. Standing next to me was a disheveled man smiling sweetly. A social worker came by. She gently asked him whether he’d like to go with her and get cleaned up. He nodded, and they left together.

Of course, many of the homeless are far less docile. The infamous Jungle encampment in Seattle has become a scene of violence and other social mayhem. Law enforcement dreads going there.

That the homeless often prefer to live on the streets, as opposed to shelters, is not a reason to let them. Their objections range from hatred of rules to the inconvenience of being sent away every morning.

San Francisco has developed an interesting program to address some flaws in the shelter system. It created the Navigation Center as a kind of halfway house between a shelter and permanent housing. The “guests” can keep pets, store possessions and take showers. Case managers try to transition the residents into permanent housing while connecting them with health services, driver’s licenses and food stamps.

The Navigation Center has not been the perfect solution to the enormous challenge. Because its residents have been allowed to cut in line for permanent subsidized housing, the center has become wildly popular. The waiting list for admission is very long, and the most vulnerable people have the hardest time pushing their way in.

But this is how the homeless should be treated — with dignity and care but direction. Letting obviously dysfunctional humans live in their filth as a nod to some civil right is perverse. The Navigation Center concept is now being tried in Seattle, in New York and elsewhere.

There’s no point turning this into a class issue. Gentrification creates its own dislocations, for sure. But bringing jobs and tax dollars to downtowns with public transportation can’t help but provide a net benefit to those hurting economically.

For decades, urban neglect has left the poor isolated in rotting inner cities. Healthy city centers make the economic mainstream far more accessible to city dwellers.

Letting clusters — or virtual armies — of homeless people degrade the quality of civic life clearly serves no one. Fortunately, this is a problem that money can go a long way toward fixing. And that money must be found.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Homeless, Mental Illness, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Is No Philanthropist”: Again And Again, Trump Lied About How Much He Gave To Charity

Don’t be fooled: Donald Trump is no philanthropist.

Although the real estate tycoon-cum-presidential candidate has boasted about his charitable efforts, a Washington Post investigation published Tuesday found that, over a 15-year period, Trump donated less than a third of the $8.5 million he pledged to give in that time.

From 2001 until his recent (and highly-publicized) donation to a veterans’ families group in May, Trump only contributed $2.8 million through a foundation created to manage his philanthropy. (His most recent proven donation to the foundation was in 2008.)

When BuzzFeed inquired about his donations, a spokeswoman for the campaign said that Trump’s charitable giving is “generous and frequent,” insisting that these donations are made privately and that “there’s no way for you to know or understand what those gifts are or when they are made.”

In fact, there is — but the campaign refuse to put out any documents that would support the claim that he donates privately. This set of files includes his tax returns, which he has repeatedly pledged to release.

So the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold painstakingly contacted over 160 charities with supposed connections to Trump, tracking progress on Twitter as he went along. As it turns out, only one of these groups, the Police Athletic League of New York, confirmed that it had received money from the candidate — a single donation of under $10,000 in 2009.

Fahrenthold also found that not-so noble causes like Trump’s daughter’s ballet school often received much larger sums than the causes he frequently name-dropped. For instance, though the Republican candidate has repeatedly spoken about donating profits from books and other ventures to fight homelessness, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, his son’s private school got more than all of those causes combined.

Stories like these are anything but rare. The BuzzFeed report notes that there is no proof that Trump followed through on promises to donate his profits from a Comedy Central special, a New Zealand lottery, and even a property rental to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In other cases, such as a lawsuit he won against the city of Palm Beach, or the sale of his vodka line,  the candidate donated significantly less than he pledged to initially, going from as much as a few million pledged to a few hundred dollars in actual donations.

Trump’s failure to give to charity also points to the likelihood that his ventures are less profitable than he makes them seem — and, therefore, that he is less wealthy than he claims to be. Or at least, much stingier.

 

By: Teo Armus, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Charitable Donations, Donald Trump, Philanthropy | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Strange Justice, Indeed”: The Day Clarence Thomas Gained Power, He Lost Dignity

Should he stay or should he go?

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have denounced the rumor that the controversial conservative may be planning to leave the bench next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rumor is false. If Thomas does decide to call it a career in 2017, it will bring an end to one of the greatest legal tragedies in modern American history.

As Thomas noted in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, there was a time when he was on the left side of the political spectrum, even voting for George McGovern in 1972. The ultimate catalyst for his shift to the far right was when he began to question the logic of federal desegregation programs, which made him a receptive audience for the pseudo-intellectualism of syndicated columnist and wingnut icon Thomas Sowell in the mid-1970s:

I felt like a thirsty man gulping down a class of cool water. Here was a black man who was saying what I thought–and not behind closed doors, either, but in the pages of a book that had just been reviewed in a national newspaper…It was far more common in the seventies to argue that whites, having caused our problems, should be responsible for solving them instantly, but while that approach was good for building political coalitions and soothing guilty white consciences, it hadn’t done much to improve the daily lives of blacks. Sowell’s perspective, by contrast, seemed old-fashioned, outdated, even mundane–but realistic. It reminded me of the mantra of the Black Muslims I had met in college: Do for self, brother.

My Grandfather’s Son is a morbidly fascinating work, one that provides insight into the odd personality that has occupied Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the High Court for over two decades. Indeed, this Friday marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Thomas to the Court.

In My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas wrote that prior to the announcement of his nomination, Bush promised him, “Judge, if you go on the Court, I will never publicly criticize any of your decisions.” One wonders if Bush privately regrets making such an awful nomination, just as he openly regrets the rise of Donald Trump. Remember when the 41st President referred to Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann as “sick puppies”? Considering the horrible votes he has cast over the past 25 years, that term is far more applicable to Thomas.

One also wonders if Thomas will ever take a hard look at his legacy once he steps down from the bench. Had Thomas never fallen for Sowell’s shtick, perhaps he would have gone on to become one of America’s great champions of civil rights, as opposed to an explicit enemy of equality. Maybe Thomas didn’t deserve some of the harsh race-based insults he received over the years–after all, no one ever accused Antonin Scalia of being a self-hating Italian-American–but he certainly deserves strong criticism for his profoundly bizarre interpretation of the Constitution, most recently on display in Utah v. Strieff. (Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent was seemingly written to challenge Thomas to confront the real-world implications of his disregard for the Fourth Amendment, or to suggest that one day, Thomas will have to face those very implications firsthand.)

It is interesting to note that in My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas actually admitted that the Republican Party he chose to embrace after being seduced by Sowell’s sentences didn’t have much use for African-Americans. Describing his days as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan administration, Thomas observed:

Too many of [President Reagan’s] political appointees seemed more interested in playing to the conservative bleachers–and I’d come to realize, as I told a reporter, that ‘conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.’ Was it because they were prejudiced? Perhaps some of them were, but the real reason, I suspected, was that blacks didn’t vote for Republicans, nor would Democrats work with President Reagan on civil-rights issues. As a result there was little interest within the administration in helping a constituency that wouldn’t do anything in return to help the president. My suspicions were confirmed when I offered my assistance to President Reagan’s reelection campaign, only to be met with near-total indifference. One political consultant was honest enough to tell me straight out that since the president’s reelection strategy didn’t include the black vote, there was no role for me. 

Clarence Thomas is 68 years old. He knows what his national reputation is. He knows that for many Americans, he is a symbol of extreme ideology and extreme ambition. He knows that the day he gained power, he lost dignity. When he leaves the bench, how will he live with himself?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 26, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Clarence Thomas, Conservatives, Right Wing Extremisim, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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